We, the ASEAN Economic Ministers, gathering for our 14th Retreat in Bali, Indonesia, strongly reaffirm ASEAN’s commitment to concluding the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations by the end of 2008. At a critical time when the global economy is encountering serious turbulence and uncertainty with rising inflationary pressures, increases in food and oil prices, and the threat of a global recession, we should not allow further delays in finalising an outcome of the Doha Round that would open new markets, especially for developing countries, foster development and reinforce openness on a multilateral basis, through the application of strengthened trade rules.

We have, over the past months, made substantive and significant progress in our negotiations in Geneva. To take us forward to the final phase of the negotiations, we expect revisions to the negotiating texts for Agriculture and NAMA that are comprehensive and balanced to provide a firm basis for us to make decisions on the trade offs necessary to finalise modalities. The horizontal process of negotiating in parallel agriculture and industrial goods must show the way forward. In this regard, we see strong merit for our senior officials to meet in order to further narrow the remaining gaps as much as they can and substantively prepare the ground for an appropriate Ministerial conference.

But in moving ahead, it is vital that efforts in all other areas in the single undertaking should also make progress to give all necessary comfort to the Membership. In the case of Services, preparations are being made for the Ministerial Signalling Conference. Any report arising from the said meeting should be balanced, reflecting the position of Members, taking into account the Hong Kong Mandate on services. Similarly, in the case of Rules, we reiterate the importance of a new text from the Chair that reflects the reality of the negotiation and adheres to the DDA mandate.

At this decisive juncture for the Doha Round, we reiterate our deep appreciation and firm support for the efforts of WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups. The responsibility for delivering an outcome rests with all Members but none more so than on the major players. The imperative to deliver a strong Doha Round outcome has never been more urgent. This is the time for resolve and leadership. ASEAN undertakes to make our own contributions, and will work closely with all our partners to conclude the Doha Round by end of 2008.

We also reiterate our strong support to the Lao PDR’s early accession to the WTO. In this regard, we emphasise that the Lao PDR is acceding to the WTO as a least-developed country whose eventual commitments shall correspond to such status, especially its development, financial, and trade needs as well as its institutional capacities.